Bear Essentials

pandamonium 2020

PANDAMONIUM

2.5 Stars  2020/18/86m

“This panda means business.”

Director: MJ Dixon / Cast: David Hon Ma Chu, Oriana Crystal Charles, Will Jones, Dani Thompson, James Hamser-Morton, Lee Mark Jones, Charlie Bond, Will Marshall, Chloe Badham, Derek Nelson, Tatiana Ibba, Charlie Clarke, Nad Abdoolakhan.

Body Count: 12

Laughter Lines: “This guy is a professional killer, not a Dairylea Triangle.”


On Arielle’s first day as their office junior, the sleazy solicitors of Killmore & Percival decide to throw themselves an after hours party and invite strippers to entertain them. Yes, it’s Psycho Cop Returns anew!

If this weren’t bad enough, the hootenanny is crashed by a suited, panda-masked killer with a thing for big knives and one-liners, and he begins to eliminate the security guard, employees who stayed too late, and finally the drug-addled Sixth Floor assholes and the strippers, while Arielle – an ex-stripper herself – and fellow newbie Daniel try to find a means of escape.

Panda-killer is played by a friend of mine, multidimensional performance artist David Hon Ma Chu, whose dulcet Mancunian tones give the loon an almost cuddly edge, if you could get close enough without receiving a knife in the gut.

pandamonium 2020

The micro-budget means that a lot of the film is done on the cheap, but it has a decent production polish and some amusing moments, my favourite being two of the strippers discussing cleaning products before they’re interrupted by a client and spring into alluring mode.

*Gasp!* It’s both of you!

Peering over the parapet of retirement for this. Mid-80s Police Academy knock off Moving Violations proved to be a regular phonebook of siblings-of-stars and slasher movie also-rans…

Most evident to me was the appearance of not one, but two alumni of The Burning, Brian Backer and Ned Eisenberg. The former is a luckless purveyor of a mobile puppet show, the latter is introduced by asking Jennifer Tilly (!) if she saw any of the first five Friday the 13th movies and later dons a hockey mask.

brian backer ned eisenberg moving violations 1985

Elsewhere, Willard Pugh from The Hills Have Eyes Part II appears, all of them under Stacy Keach’s little brother and Bill Murray’s little brother in the lead roles.

See you in a few weeks when I watch the slasher film my friend Dave was in.

That’s all folks!

 

The well is officially dry. I’ve reviewed every slasher film, documentary, and TV series I’ve ever seen, all 778 titles (plus 3 random other reviews).

thatsallfolks

So in terms of my updates every five days, we’ve reached the end of the line, although I’ll stick up reviews of anything relevant I see. A friend of mine is actually in a new film due out in March.

What’s changed? Time, I guess. A few years ago I decided to stop seeking out the lowest end, shot-on-a-phone, potato-quality films because they just weren’t ever enjoyable, despite the best intentions of those who made them.

I’ve ranked, rated, listed, and loved every aspect of the genre I can think to rank, rate, list and love, from final girl countdowns, Stock Background Characters 101, VIP’s of Slasherdom, and that controversial Top 100 – if I knew where to go next with it, believe me I would, but repeating myself ad nauseum has a shelf life.

All that’s left to say until such a time that an awesome new film comes along, is thanks for a great 12 years, everybody who’s commented, argued with me over a rating, suggested new films to watch, and that person who called me an ‘ignorant rookie’ who ‘didn’t know what they were talking about’ that time.

Special shout-outs to Grace, Jake, Justin, Kaijinu, Lord Crayak, Meat-free Myers, Paul, Phil M, Ross H, Ross T, SlasherTrash, Stacie Ponder, and Moto – who has been dragged around more secondhand video stores than anybody could take.

Love you all.

Hud x

Gianna and the Giallo

deep red 1975

DEEP RED

3.5 Stars  1975/18/126m

“You will never forget it.”

Original title: Profondo Rosso

Director/Writer: Dario Argento / Writer: Bernardino Zapponi / Cast: David Hemmings, Daria Nicolodi, Gabriele Lavia, Macha Maril, Eros Pagni, Giuliana Calandra, Clara Calamai.

Body Count: 6

Laughter Lines: “It’s always a maniac and they never catch them!”


I saw Deep Red for the first time about eight years ago but curiously made no notes whatsoever and couldn’t remember a whole lot beyond the twist with the ‘painting’, the mechanical doll, and not knowing if Gianna died or not. It’s likely I watched a cropped down version, because the one I just rented seemed a whole lot longer and had several cut-ins which were never dubbed into English (despite the actors’ lips obviously speaking in it).

Anyway, serving as the template for Dario Argento’s move from whodunits into his more slasher movie-esque era, the accepted giallo ingredients are all present and accounted for: An outsider, a black-gloved mystery killer, slow moving scenes that fragment the locus so we don’t know where the fiend might leap from any second, psychics, a score like someone had a seizure at the piano… It’s all here! Yay!

deep red 1975

In this case, David Hemmings is Marcus Daly, a jazz pianist/lecturer living in Italy (whether or not it’s Turin where the film was shot I don’t know – they mentioned Rome?) who, one night, witnesses the brutal murder of his neighbour, Lithuanian medium Helga Ulmann who, earlier, had ‘tapped in’ to the thoughts of a vengeful killer during a lecture on telepathy, saying she knew who it was and that she would write out her observations and hand them over to the police.

deep red 1975

Marc finds himself teamed up with Lois Laney reporter Gianna (longterm Argento fixture Nicolodi) to try and crack the case ahead of the seemingly clueless cops – who tell the press their eyewitness can ID the killer, which goes out on the evening news. There’s a tinge of romance between the carefree Gianna and uptight Marc and the re-added scenes largely cover their partnership, involving a recurring gag with a crapped out Fiat 500. After an hour, the killer returns to eliminate a writer who knows about a past crime at a house we briefly saw during the credits as someone was being stabbed to death before the weapon fell at the feet of a child, while a kid’s ‘la la la’ ditty plays. This tune comes up several times and, while not as much of a brain intrusion as Baby Shark, anything by Ed Sheeran, or the Halloween III Silver Shamrock commercial, it does get a little irritating.

With the killer seemingly one step ahead, Marc finds the creepy old mansion and uncovers some more clues. This scene is strangely long – really long – and it reminded me how impatient modern audiences have become. A part of it involves him chipping away at plaster to view a mural beneath it. In a new flick, this would be montaged down with cuts, but in Deep Red we witness the whole process, including him going off to find a piece of glass to hasten his pace.

deep red 1975

In that sense, Deep Red, if re-edited, would probably clock in around 85 minutes there’s so much …waiting going on. But in other scenes it makes sense: The stalking of the interim victims – the writer and a professor – is expertly strung out to tease the audience. We know something bad is about to drop, but from where, and how badly? The mechanical doll shock is still absurdly creepy and weirdly irrelevant, yet remains the most memorable set piece.

Eventually, Marc figures out what he saw way back at the start with ‘the painting’ and the killer is revealed. “It was such a long time ago!” they caw for the flashback/exposition, before a very rapid fight ensues. The twist is neat though, can’t say otherwise and, while I’d probably not choose to donate two hours of my time to sitting through this for, hmm, another couple of decades, it shows that Argento was, even then, streets ahead of his contemporaries.

deep red 1975 daria nicolodi

Blurbs-of-interest: Argento’s other slasher pics include TenebraeOperaPhenomena, Trauma, and Sleepless; Nicolodi was in Tenebrae, Phenomena, and Opera; Gabriele Lavia was in Sleepless.

Into the dark / Out of the closet

into the dark midnight kiss 2019

INTO THE DARK: MIDNIGHT KISS

2.5 Stars  2019/89m

“They came to slay.”

Director: Carter Smith / Writer: Erlingur Thoroddsen / Cast: Augustus Prew, Scott Evans, Ayden Mayeri, Lukas Gage, Chester Lockhart, Adam Faison.

Body Count: 4


Into the Dark is a Hulu-produced horror anthology show with different feature-length scary tales each episode. This second stab at a slasher yarn (the first being School Spirit) opted to side-step from the usual bouncy teens set into the lives of a group of gay friends who take the chance to stay in their rich friend’s pad in Palm Springs for New Year’s Eve 2019-2020.

Unfortunately for them, a fetish-masked mystery loon has decided to send them each cryptic notes before slashing and choking them to death, starting with the obligatory shower kill. But wait, the character conventions have been flipped, so we’re in for some equal opportunity objectification and are provided with a hot muscular guy for a change.

Doubtlessly, narrow-minded types threw their remotes in disgust at the ensuing scenes of men kissing other men (though betcha bottom dollar they wouldn’t have objected to excess girl-on-girl) as the guys and their token straight female friend resurrect a NYE game known as Midnight Kiss, where they each must find a stranger to share a consensual tongue-war with, and then all other relationship restrictions are binned for the night.

into the dark midnight kiss 2019

Struggling artist Cameron is slightly out of sorts due to his controlling ex Joel’s over-celebration of his engagement to twinky Logan, who is largely inexperienced. Flamboyant Insta-gay Zachary wants to check out what he thinks will be a better party elsewhere, and Hannah is slowly getting peeved that she is the perpetual hanger-on with few options to pick up guys if they only ever go to gay venues.

Midnight comes and goes and the group go back to the fancy house to wind down, where the killer reappears and chases Cameron around for a while, until the inevitable unmasking, which marks the tripping point for Midnight Kiss, as the motive comes down to little more than the killer’s ego being bruised because one of the group kissed him seven years earlier and, well, that was it.

midnight kiss 2019

While production assets are fine, the episode just suffers from being flaccid, thrill-wise: Hot nude guys can only entertain for so long, and with few murders occurring (though the Sorority Row revisited one is neat), we’re left with a bit too much dialogue and too little action, plus a revelation that ultimately leads nowhere and is unresolved by the time the credits roll. Hellbent did it better.

1 2 3 208